My most recent posts have touched on some of the technical issues that I've been having with my current project. The question of what camera to use has loomed large, and has gotten me thinking a lot about comfort zones. The questions I have wrestled with are: "Am I too comfortable using the panoramic and/or square format? Would I challenge myself more by using a different format camera?" The answer I have come up with, at least for now, is, "No" to both questions. One of things I love about using the panoramic or square format is that I constantly feel challenged to further explore their possibilities. Rather than feeling predictable, they force me to rethink what I am doing every time I use them. I have never felt that way using 35mm, 6x7 or 4x5 cameras.
But the larger question here is: "Will my work improve if I force myself to work in a way that makes me feel uncomfortable?" My answer to this is: "Yes." I also believe, however, that if I am uncomfortable with everything I am doing, my brain grinds to a halt. What works best for me is to make myself uncomfortable in limited-but-ever-changing ways throughout the course of a project. I've found that throwing only one or two wrenches into the works at any given time does an amazing job at putting me off my stride and forcing me to reconsider what I am doing.
Being uncomfortable is part of the sometimes-painful process of bringing new work to life, because it leads to uncertainty. But I've found that I ultimately grow more creatively when I force uncomfortableness upon myself and that makes that it totally worthwhile. Here's a great article that speaks to this: "The Creative Benefits of Exploring the Uncomfortable".